In the two days since the second U.S. Ebola patient was diagnosed, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has assembled a new team to battle the threat of Ebola. This team has no steady lineup, but it will be deployed anywhere in the country that sees a new case of Ebola, CDC Director Thomas Frieden said in a press conference Tuesday afternoon.
"For any hospital, anywhere in the country that has a confirmed case of Ebola, we will put a team on the ground within hours," Frieden said. "I wish we had put a team like this on the ground the day the first patient was diagnosed," he conceded.
The CDC already has an additional infection-control crew at the Dallas hospital where the second Ebola patient, Nina Pham, who treated index patient Thomas Duncan, is now receiving care. There the CDC employees are working "hand-in-glove" with hospital staff to ensure no new transmissions occur in the hospital, Frieden said—primarily by beefing up training, education and monitoring.
"A single infection in a healthcare worker is unacceptable," he noted.
"We know it's hard," Frieden said Tuesday of safely handling Ebola patients. "We know that a single breach can cause an infection. That's why we're looking at every aspect of the procedures so we can make them safer." Texas State Health Commissioner, David Lakey noted that officials have yet to identify the error and are still searching for that slip.
The CDC is now also considering transferring any newly diagnosed patients to one of four specialized U.S. hospitals that are trained and equipped to deal with deadly infectious diseases. "That's one of the things the Ebola response team would consider" when assessing the strategy for caring for a new patient, Frieden said.
Pham is now reported to be in good condition, according to the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. And none of the other people with whom Duncan had contact that the CDC is monitoring have shown signs of the illness.
Should they, or any other individual in the U.S., begin exhibiting symptoms, however, the person will immediately be isolated and tested for the virus. If the test comes back positive, the CDC now promises it "will be there, hands-on, within hours helping the hospital deal with the situation." And presumably those are properly gloved hands.